"A warming planet doesn't just mean rising temperatures, it also means risking more summertime pollution and the health effects that come with it," said Pfister.
However, the research also showed that a sharp reduction in the emissions of certain pollutants would lead to dramatically decreased levels of ozone even as temperatures warm.
The research is one of the first of its type to be conducted with new, highly advanced geoscience supercomputing capabilities.
"Understanding future changes in surface ozone over the summer has tremendous implications for air quality and human health," said Anjuli Bamzai, a program director in NSF's Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funded the research through NSF's Decadal and Regional Climate Prediction using Earth System Models (EaSM) Program.
"Through a series of 'what if' simulations," said Bamzai, "atmospheric chemists, climate modelers, regional modelers and developers of emissions scenarios demonstrate that a balance of emission controls can counteract the increases in future temperatures, emissions and solar radiation that in turn lead to decreases in surface ozone."
Ozone and heat
Ozone pollution is not emitted directly. It forms as a result of chemical reactions that take place between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight.
These gases come from human activities such as combustion of coal and oil, as well as natural sources such as emissions from plants.
To examine the effects of climate change on ozone pollution, Pfister and colleagues looked at two scenarios.
In one, emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds from human activities would continue at current levels through 2050.
In the other, emissions would be cut by 60-70 percent. Both scenarios assumed continued greenhouse gas emissions with signific
|Contact: Cheryl Dybas|
National Science Foundation